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Move Safely to the Cloud: Steps to Setting Up a Cloud Security Policy

Written By: Alex Cowperthwaite

Modern office building in the clouds

Many businesses are moving to the cloud as a core element of their digital transformation efforts. The cloud offers unmatched flexibility advantages and in a more cost-effective manner than on-premises infrastructure. Those advantages include testing and implementing new services more nimbly, as well as scaling services without having to worry about investments in infrastructure and space. Cloud services also make remote interaction, both by employees and customers, easier than ever. With increased demand for remote services, and remote work expected to continue at an increased level compared to pre-pandemic levels, cloud services make doing business easier.

However, moving to the cloud requires security considerations, as well. All of that flexibility comes with increased risk if the move to the cloud is not governed by a strong, well-thought-out security policy tailored to your business’s data and needs. Modern cloud services do have security capabilities and settings, but are not secure by default. Failing to implement a security policy while moving to the cloud can lead to data compromise as well as potential compliance shortcomings, depending on the industry.

Consider these steps to make sure you have a strong cloud security policy as you make the transition.

Start with Data Classification

At the foundation of a cloud security policy, you need a clear idea of what data your company has, what data you are considering using with cloud services, and what the financial and regulatory consequences would be if that data were breached. If your company already has a robust data classification, make sure it is up to date. If not, start with building that before setting up your cloud security policy. Both data security and data residency requirements arise when moving operations to the cloud, and you need to be able to make policy decisions based on the types of data you have and the types of data that particular cloud services you are considering may need.

Modern office building in the clouds

Know Your Cloud Plan

Part of why so many businesses are moving to the cloud is that so many things can be done with cloud services. From data analysis to office functions to data storage to customer interaction, the possibilities of the cloud are as big as the cloud itself. There are a broad range of cloud platforms, including Infrastructure as a Service, Platform as a Service, and Software as a Service, designed to do an almost infinite range of things. 

A cloud security policy needs to be relevant to what your business is actually planning on doing in the cloud, and what services they plan to use. Your cloud security policy needs to enable you to evaluate the range of cloud services and select ones that meet both your functional and security needs. And, it needs to take into account the fact that you will need to reconsider and revise it as your use cases for the cloud change.

Consider Existing Models and Frameworks

Even though your needs are unique, and your final policy will specifically embrace the services you choose to use and the needs you have, existing cloud security policies can be a strong foundation to build from. They can help you make sure you are asking the right questions and covering all the bases. Engage with other people you trust, who do security in your industry, for ideas, pointers, and examples to help you start crafting your own. In addition, documents from expert organizations such as the Cloud Security Alliance, NIST, or other bodies dedicated to standards and best practices can also help start you on the right foot.

Start with the Security Basics

Even though the cloud is a new paradigm for IT services, your basic goal is the same: keeping data and services accessible to those who have a business need to use them and out of the hands of those who don’t. Security basics that should be covered in cloud security policies include: 

  • Outlining requirements for identity and access management. As you consider and adopt different cloud services, make sure to document how to configure accounts to match those requirements in the procedure, to ensure compliance going forward.
  • Stating what kind of data is and is not allowed to be stored in the cloud in the first place, based on data classification, as well as how that data should be encrypted and stored.
  • Defining who has the authority to do various things: to evaluate or select cloud services, to edit or update the cloud security policy.
  • Establishing a timeline and process for reevaluating and updating the cloud security policies as security needs, regulatory needs, or best practices evolve.

Engage Expert Insight, Within and Outside of the Company

Designing a cloud security policy requires a broad range of security insight. Internally, it requires insight from IT and information security at all levels, as well as management and legal teams. A cloud security policy must take into account the relative sensitivity and value of the data, the specific tasks that are intended to be done in the cloud, what other systems or data the service needs to interact with, and what compliance concerns apply. This information can only be gathered by communication with multiple parts of the company. 

Designing a cloud security plan also requires specific cloud security expertise. Many companies do not necessarily have that on staff. Working with a trusted partner who has helped companies create cloud security policies can help ensure your business is asking the right questions and covering every base for a strong cloud security policy.

Getting Started with Your Cloud Security Policy Framework

If your company is thinking about the cloud, your company needs a cloud security policy. Maybe you are just beginning to create one as part of a move to the cloud. Perhaps you have already started a move to the cloud during the COVID-19 pandemic, and need to make sure that the cloud security policy you created during that emergency is strong enough to stand the test of time.

Security Compass Advisory has a deep bench of cloud security experts including AWS, Azure, and Google-certified architects, experienced cloud security practitioners, and cloud security thought leaders. We have a full range of experience with designing cloud security policies, architecting secure cloud systems, and assessing the security of cloud implementations. 

Check out this case study to find out how our team helped a top media and entertainment firm bring security and automation to an ambitious enterprise cloud initiative, including mapping their current information security policies to best practices for their business needs, cloud implementation, and goals.

Learn more about Security Compass Advisory’s cloud security practice. And, when you’re ready to begin the discussion about your cloud security, we’re ready to listen.

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Alex Cowperthwaite
Technical Director
Alex Cowperthwaite
Alex is a Technical Director. He has extensive experience performing a variety of security assessments including cloud architecture, threat models, web app and infrastructure pentetration tests. Alex’s background in reverse engineering and vulnerability analysis combines with years of hands on experience at Security Compass to provide an adaptable skill set that can tackle almost any unique security assessment. Alex has a passion for leading and mentoring Security Compass consultants to achieve excellence in results.

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